Meet a legal staffer: Andrew Seidel

Name: Andrew Lewis Seidel (SIGH-dle).

Where and when I was born: Jan. 31, 1982, in Woodbury, N.J.

Family: My wife Liz, who’s also an FFRF staff attorney.

Education: B.S. in neuroscience and environmental science (cum laude), juris doctor (magna cum laude), Tulane University; master of laws (Outstanding LLM Award), University of Denver, Sturm College of Law.

How I came to work at FFRF: I was working in private practice in Colorado but wanted to do something more. I looked at all the state/church separation groups and atheism and humanism groups in the country. To me, FFRF has the perfect balance of atheism and separationism. We focus on helping people first, which is a bit unique in this movement.

I had already won a scholarship from FFRF for an essay I wrote for the annual contest. I used that foothold to do some volunteer work and then asked Dan and Annie Laurie to hire me full time. I believe I have a responsibility to use my law degree to make this world a better place. That’s why I chose FFRF.

What I do here: I do a bit of everything, but mostly I defend Jefferson’s wall of separation. I also speak around the U.S., take photos, write blogs and help write ads and serve as a general handyman around the office. Several staffers have joked that my staff attorney title is too restrictive.

What I like best about it: Every day we fight to uphold the First Amendment. Not many lawyers have that privilege. We also fight on behalf of an underrepresented minority. Helping freethinking students and families attend school, free from proselytizing or praying and preying teachers, is immensely rewarding.

What gets old about it: Playing against a stacked deck can get tiresome. We are way overmatched in funding, and courts are reluctant to decide cases in favor of an unpopular minority, even if the law is clear. The media portray us as whiny rabble-rousers. But we have reason and right on our side, and I truly believe that we will be successful.

I spend a lot of time thinking about: My family, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And the book I am working on about how Judeo-Christian principles conflict with America’s founding principles. I’m almost done with the first draft.

I spend little if any time thinking about: The differences between the various religious sects. To me, it’s a bit like arguing over the average height of leprechauns or what color unicorn hair is. It’s all an argument over something that isn’t real. The Methodist is just a wrong as the Catholic who’s just as wrong as the Sikh. They’re wasting their breath on differences over fictional nonsense.

My religious upbringing was: Pretty liberal. My mom encouraged me to go to different churches with my Christian friends and to temple with my Jewish friends, etc. According to my mom, I briefly wanted to convert to Judaism after attending my first bar mitzvah. That broad exposure made it pretty clear that no religion had a monopoly on truth. I soon realized they were probably all wrong.

My doubts about religion started: They didn’t start, they were always there. I agree with Hitchens, who observed that “You don’t so much as become an atheist as find out that’s what you are. There’s no moment of conversion. You don’t suddenly think ‘I don’t believe this anymore.’ You essentially find you don’t believe it.”

Religion never made sense to me. I think it’s natural for every child to doubt and question. Kids are curious. It takes religion to silence that curiosity and shut down those doubts. If humans were truly, deeply religious, they wouldn’t need to attend church every week to reinforce their faith.

Things I love: Learning, traveling, reading, my wife (FFRF Staff Attorney Elizabeth Cavell), my family, dogs, trying to capture the beauty of nature with my camera and redemption through effort, thought and will.

Things I smite: Cruelty, bigotry, proud, confident ignorance and redemption through human sacrifice.

My favorite authors are: In no particular order, P.G. Wodehouse, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, George MacDonald Fraser, George Orwell, Christopher Hitchens, Ron Chernow, Colleen McCullough and many more.

My legal heroes are: There are so many to choose from — Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams, Clarence Darrow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Earl Warren, Learned Hand (coolest name ever) and Ruth Bader Ginsburg all spring to mind.

But my true legal heroes are plaintiffs in cases like those FFRF takes: the McCollums, Ellery Schempp, Roy Torcaso, Joann Bell, Jessica Ahlquist, Max Nielson and everyone who challenges religious privilege in court. I’m in awe of their courage and willingness to stand on principle. (John Scopes also, although he was a criminal defendant and not a plaintiff.)

Freedom From Religion Foundation